By Deborah Lambeth

Picture this: you sit down for dinner, see a sizzling steak on your plate and just cannot wait to dig in and eat it. You slice it, take one bite, and realize, “hey, there isn’t garlic in it. Isn’t that cinnamon?” Obviously it makes a difference in determining which spices to use while cooking. Just like cinnamon doesn’t taste good on steak, garlic probably isn’t the first thing you want to wake up and see on your toast.

There are many condiments, that when used correctly, makes food aromatic and delicious for the palate. There are tips, however, on using them, in order to ensure that the flavor of the dish gets enhanced, and not compromised. For example, cooking these condiments for too long may result in the flavor becoming too strong. When you cook stews and soups, it is best to add them an hour or less prior to serving. Did you know that crushing the herbs before you add them increases the aroma and makes the dish more flavorsome. When you use fresh ingredients, they should always be added towards the end of cooking, so that the flavors are as fresh as the herbs.
Here’s a tip: do not use more than three herbs and spices in any dish. There are some caveats to that. For example, some Indian recipes are an exception to this rule, as they often call for 10 or more different ingredients in one curry dish. It’s fun to be creative in the kitchen and using spices/herbs is one area where you can be innovative. Change the seasoning you would normally add to a dish and experiment a little.

I heard Emeril Lagasse say on a show that, people keep condiments in their cabinets for too long. He joked about a friend of his who had a jar of garlic passed down from his grandmother. Storage and handling are just as important, as learning how to use them. They need to be stored in a cool, dark place. They will lose their flavor quickly if exposed to excessive light. They should be stored in airtight containers, as they will retain their flavors for up to a year when stored like this. A basic rule of thumb is to store them away from any source of humidity. The freezer is a perfect place to store spices-the refrigerator is not.

Commercial seasonings are a shortcut used by most of the professional chefs. However, you can grow herbs easily in your yard, pots, or window planters. Check with a local garden store when you want to buy seeds or small plants. Dill, Parsley, Mint, Oregano, Thyme, and Basil are just a few of the aromatic and fragrant herbs that you can grow and harvest to use, while preparing scrumptious dishes. When you pick your herbs, its best to pick them in the morning. Dry them on racks or upside down by their stems. Once they are dry, scrape the leaves off the plant.

By following these simple tips on using seasonings effectively, you may just create a recipe that will be one of a kind and enjoyed by everyone.